Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.

I wonder how many times that has been read by parents, by teachers, by babysitters, and by children. It is so simple and such a beautiful introduction to literature.

Bill Martin, Jr had a hard, hard time learning to read. He still wasn't proficient by the time he got to college. College!
However, his early influences weren't completely devoid of literary input. He said one teacher, Mrs. Davis, stoked his creativity by reading novels to his 5th grade class every day.
Mrs. Davis opened the world of books by "[tuning] his ears to literate language and to the voice of the text."

In college, he stumbled on poetry. How very unlikely for the son of a paperhanger with four brothers. He was born in Hiawatha, Kansas. I'd love to know what went on in that home when they were young. At least two brothers loved books. Bill wrote 300. Bernard illustrated the first ten. Robert Frost and Walt Whitman taught him to read. No, they weren't contemporaries, but in college their poetry unlocked the key to Bill's reading. He finally took the sounds of words in his ear and connected them to the words on the page. This enabled him to reverse the process. He took the words on the page and was able to produce the sounds of words.

He went on to get a doctorate in Early Childhood Education. Here is a concise list of things he did in his career that ultimately promoted literacy: Reading Rockets and a video interview.

My favorite quote from Bill Martin, Jr. :

"I don't write books, I talk them," Martin explains.

"I write to a melody."

Bill Martin is my second hero as a promoter of literacy. He understood books need to delight the child aurally as well as visually.

Look at his books in the library. Most of them show that they are loved with smudged pages and wrinkled edges.

I pray I will leave books behind that are so intriguing, they lure children into reading.

1 comment:

  1. I love to read, "Knots on a Counting Rope" by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, to second graders. It is an unforgettable story about a young Native American boy who is learning the story of his birth from his grandfather. Everytime the story is told, another knot is tied into the rope. By the time the rope is full of knots, the story is memorized!
    A fun follow-up is for children to take a piece of string and make their own "counting rope". The child asks a parent or grandparent for a story from childhood, and practices telling it, tying kots each time. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the activity inspired a generation of storytellers?